September of a few years ago, New Line paired up Jackie Chan with fast-talking "Money Talks" star Chris Tucker and "Talks" director Brett Ratner. "Rush Hour" was dumped into the middle of September by the studio, only to see the film run flying out of the gates, with a major opening and exceptional business in the following weeks. It deserved to, as well. A smart, edgy buddy-cop comedy, the two lead actors had great chemistry and, shockingly, it seemed as if the genre would be refreshed.
The inevitable sequel has arrived and the question remains - does the series continue at the same strength? Unfortunately, no. Working with a dissapointing screenplay from Jeff Nathanson (original screenwriter Ross Lamanna simply gets "characters" credit this time out), the laughs come occasionally and the action comes at a respectable rate, but the dialogue is pure generic buddy-action comedy banter and, after a while, it gets tired. Nathanson's previous credits include "Speed 2: Cruise Control". Enough said.
The plot goes something like this: Inspector Lee (Chan) and Detective Carter (Tucker) are in Hong Kong - Lee continues to work cases while Carter is on vacation and getting increasingly annoyed that he's not actually getting any vacation time. Suddenly, there's an explosion at the US Embassy and Lee gets called into the case - dragging Carter along with him. Thus begins a mess of a plot revolving around counterfit money - or something like that. There's Isabella Molina, a customs agent who may or may not be working for the good guys; Ricky Tan, Triad boss and Hu Li, played by Zhang Ziyi of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon". Ziyi is the only one that makes any sort of impression in a handful of decent action scenes. The other two are generally wasted; personally, I really liked period actor Tom Wilkinson as the villian in the first one a bit better.
A bigger problem in this second picture is Tucker, but it isn't Tucker's fault. In the original picture, Carter was a highly talkative character who used his mouth smartly to talk his way out of trouble. He was generally a good guy underneath and the first picture knew just how much to use Tucker. I've always liked Tucker's fast-talking antics, but used wrongly or too much and he becomes less entertaining (although this is nowhere near as annoying as his character from "The 5th Element"). Writer Nathanson doesn't seem to show an understanding of what made the character likable in the first picture - here, he's an arrogant character who walks directly into trouble and, as his mouth runs off, he finds that he's only caused worse trouble with the villians out to get them both.
There's a few jokes that are exceptionally funny, but for every joke that made me laugh, there's several that didn't even bring a smile. The funniest joke actually revolves around a callback of a joke from the first film, only this time it's Lee who asks Carter, "do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?". The other half of the film is the action sequences - many of which are respectable and occasionally impressive. Yet, Jet Li's "Kiss Of The Dragon" offered more consistent and more exceptionally choreographed and filmed action. Although rightfully respected action cinematographer Matthew Leonetti ("Strange Days") provides effective photography here, I much prefered the grittier, darker and more intimidating viewpoint of cinematographer Thierry Arbogast in "Dragon".
Personally, I was just short of very dissapointed with "Rush Hour 2". It contains a few mildly entertaining moments, but a mediocre screenplay makes the entire film suffer. Fans of the original film may want to check it out at a bargain matinee, but I'd go in with low expectations.